I have a Paypal account in Germany. At some point I logged in and was asked for some security information, including 4 digits of my drivers license. I do not have a drivers license but perhaps I was asked for this in the past without an option to say no so I tried 4 digits that I know I would have used. This didnt work. So I tried to contact support.

Support Web Interface Fail

First, it is dificult to contact support without being able to login. Though I can login I am unable to do anything, including accessing help, without getting passed the security questions first. So I attempted to contact them without logging in and we run into the first UI fail.

When I access “help” without logging in I get a screen that tells me to login and change my language preferences to English (screenshot). Though my account is in germany my preferences were already set to English. Of course, I cant get passed the security questions when I login so there is no way to even follow the steps they give to change language.

Next I tried the “Contact Us” page. I get a similar page with similar instructions (screenshot). Then I tried the “About Us” page and selected “Contact Us” from the sub-menu. There I select “Customer Support Inquiries”. Result is the same page as the first “Contact Us” page.

Finally I get clever and change the URL for support from “/de/” to “/us/”: https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/helpweb?cmd=_help

This gives me the “Help Center” knowledge base. Selecting “Contact Us” on the bottom right sidebar (screenshot) gives me a dialog asking why I would like to contact support. Here you have two more tabs one which is “Call Us” and the other is “Email Us” (screenshot). When I select “Email Us” I’m asked to login. Of course logging in gives me the security questions. If I select the “Call Us” option the same login and problems result.

I do not remember how but somehow I got to a webform eventually and was able to email them. But the best solution is to just search the internet for the support email. Evenutally the support email address can be found on another site: support@paypal.com.

Human Fail – email support:

For as Kafkaesque their Web UI is the human support is even more disturbing. What resulted was a month of back and forth emails which make clear that should robots desire, they will have no problem taking over human tasks as the humans that paypal higher don’t seem to have more than a few shift registers for memory (memory which can only retain a limited amount of data).

Me – 3/12:

On login I get asked to confirm ______ and the last digits of my drivers license. I have no drivers license! I tried _______ and the last # digits that I would have used in place of the license and this does not work. Christ, my account is already connected to my bank account!  Is there any way I can resolve this?”

Response 1 – 3/14:

Hello, my name is Erika Angela from PayPal Customer Service.

Please allow me to inform you that we do not ask for driver’s license in our official website (https:www.paypal.com)
[more cut+past junk]

Assuming that perhaps they think im on a fake paypal site I respond with a screenshot of the security dialog asking for the drivers license and the SSL certificate signed by Verigsign proving that this is the official Paypal site.

Me – 3/14:

You are kidding me right? Please see attached screen shot which clearly shows an SSL page with verified certificate from Paypal asking for my drivers license number.

Response 2 – 3/16:

Dear Nathan Fain,

Hello, Nathan.  My name is Elma from PayPal Customer Service.

In our efforts to provide a secure service, we may ask you to provide additional information when you log in to your account or change accountinformation. This security measure prevents unauthorized access to your account. To confirm you are the owner of the account, you need to enter the correct information. You don’t have to worry, I have updated your account there’s no need to provide additional information. Just make sure that you are entering the correct information when ask about the security questions.

Please do not add spaces or dashes when you enter the following information:

… [more cut+past junk]

The email precedes to explain they never ask for my password and how to check and confirm that the site is protected with SSL by paypal, which had looked at the email contents they were responding to would clearly show I did this already. However, she said she updated my account so perhaps all is well. When I login though I still have the exact same problem. No change, still cannot get past post-login security dialog. I send the screenshot again:

Me – 3/17:

Again, see the attached screen shot. I’m going to guess this has something to do with the fact that whenever I login to paypal US it sees my account is associated with my german bank account and switches to Germany. Though, the certificate still appears in the US, and most of the text is in english, the security questions are in German.

This support thread would be funny if it wasnt just sad that still 3 layers into paypal support everyone is still claiming that paypal does not ask for drivers license information.

Response  3 – 3/18:

Dear Nathan Fain,

Thank you for inquiring as to how to restore access to your account.

PayPal is constantly working to ensure security by regularly screening the accounts in our system. We recently reviewed your account and need more information to help us provide you with secure service. Until we can collect this information, your access to sensitive account features will be limited.

To return your account to regular standing, please complete the checklist items indicated when you login to your account and click on the link provided on the “Account Overview” page.

The link will appear as: “Your account access is limited: Click here for Details.”

Once you complete all of the checklist items, our Account Review team will review your case and send you an email with the outcome of the review. Cases are reviewed in the order they are received.

We regret any inconvenience, and we would like to restore your access assoon as possible.
Please do not respond to this email, as responses to this message will not be answered.

Sincerely,
PayPal Account Review Team

Did they even read ANY of the emails in this support thread? They are asking me to login and go to account overview which I clearly cannot due because of the post-login security questions. I ignored this email because it didnt seem that the right people were looking at this issue. Instead a few days later I asked for an update:

Me – 3/22:

Any word on the investigation of this issue? I’m still patiently awaiting a response. Thanks.

Response 4 – 3/22:

Dear Nathan Fain,

Hello my name is Paulina, I will be happy to assist you with your question regarding your case.

I hope you’re having a lovely day.

Phishing emails are fake emails that often link to spoof (fake) websites. These emails try to get you to reveal personal information like your Social Security number, credit card numbers, and account passwords.

Here’s how to tell if an email is from PayPal:
… [more cut+past junk]

Christ. It’s not hard to read, or look at the screenshots I sent.

Me – 3/23:

Hi Paulina, tell me, do you guys even read emails? What level of support am Idealing with now, layer 3? And you are still giving me cut+paste responses that do not address my actual problem? Please send me up a layer because this is getting tiring.

Look at my attachments from previous support threads. You can clearly see that I was not accessing a spoofed Paypal site. The certificate was signed by verisign and is a Paypal certificate for paypal.com. So unless your servers have been hacked, in which case holy crap some journalist somewhere would love to know about that, then this has nothing to do with spoofing or fraud. It has to do with your blocks on my account. Other support people at Paypal have told me they removed the block, and that the site would “never” ask for details for my drivers license. And yet the attachments have clearly shown that you do.

Please let me know where I can send complaints because this is just getting ridiculous. You do see that I have now sent 5 or 6 emails and that this process is already in its 3rd weak?!

No response

Me – 3/30:

You guys are amazing. A whole week and still no response. Can you please delete my account? I will just open a different one as I’m sure that even with this email you’re support is not capable of reviewing the actual contents of the email, previous screenshots, and will just sendme some cut+paste answer that actually doesnt have much of anything to do with the actual problem.

Response 5 – 3/31:

Dear Nathan Fain,

Hello Nathan. My name is Noel from PayPal Customer Services.

If there’s a chance that you might want to use PayPal in the future, it’s a good idea to keep your account open. There’s no fee to keep your account open.
… [more cut+past junk on how to login to delete an account]

The rest of their response is a long cut+paste on how to login and delete an account, which if they had read anything from the thread they would have known I cannot do this. Still not even getting close to looking at the previous emails, attachments of the support thread. Really, am I dealing with bots?

Me – 4/5:

I wish I could close my account however due to the problems that I’vedescribed now 4 or 5 times in this email thread I cannot even login.Amazing that you somehow missed all those details. I promptly await yet another cut+paste response.

Response 6 – 4/5:

Dear Nathan Fain,

Hello Nathan. My name is Noel from PayPal Customer Service.

Here’s how to recover your password:
1. Go to http://www.paypal.com/
2. Click “Problem with login?” under Account login.
3. Click “I don’t know my password.”
4. Enter the email address that you used to create your PayPal account.
5. Enter the security code, without spaces, then click “Continue.”
… [more cut+past junk]

Me – 4/5:

LOL! Read my previous emails. this is not about a lost password. I can login but i cannot get past a certain dialog. RTFM! Christ

No response, yet.

Human Fail – phone support

You might be saying “just call them”. I did. Around the beginning of April I called and entered another blackhole. They asked me to tell them my login email. I did and they insisted this was incorrect, and that account associate with my name was on a different email login. They said the email I gave them over the phone was for someone else. I accurately guessed that they were talking about my fathers account as we use the same domain name for our email addresses. I also knew which email they thought was associated with my account. About a year ago I changed my primary login email to my current address so I knew what the old one was. They insisted that the email I gave them was not the login, that it was for my fathers account. Only after they asked me to login with this email, did they acknowledge that no in-fact I was correct and this email was for my account, not my fathers account. I don’t even want to get into what is wrong with their back-end system and how they could mixup accounts.

After we had the login settled they insisted they do not ask for a drivers license. I explained the issue of having a German account, they put me on old, then came back and acknowledged that they didn’t know what the security mechanisms were. Of course, of course, I would have called german support if I could have accessed it but i couldn’t due to the Web UI issues I detailed at the beginning. Somehow I expected them to have a method to deal with things globally. They gave me a number to call, some long distance number. I gave up. Watching this craziness from email is somehow more fun.

Conclusion

Paypal support is absolutely fragmented. The internet based support interface as well as email and phone support are examples of how to fail. Before getting into details let me say that both the support and terms of service issues that plague Paypal of late clearly highlight an opportunity for a competing payment service to take market share. The terms of service issue i am talking about relates to how Paypal will close accounts due to political pressure. I am okay with this but I expect them to require a court order or legal request, as a normal bank would. If a payment service provider could offer both similar payment options as well as a Paypal gateway (you pay them and they handle the payment through Paypal for merchants that only support Paypal) I would switch immediately.

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